Localization: A chance for the minority to be heard

Project: Learning ProjectLPRR 5th March 2018

“Tumemulika kama mwangaza, tunang’ara kama dhahabu, sasa tunaonekana (We are illuminated like light, we are sparkling like gold, we are now visible)’’,
Dabb Nur women’s group – In response to how the benefits of the grant make them feel as a minority community.

The effects of recurrent droughts in North Eastern Kenya have had a huge impact on the lives of the communities living in Marsabit. Depletion of water and pasture resources, decline in livestock productivity, loss of livestock and livelihoods, severe food insecurity are some the of effects that communities have had to deal with every time there’s a drought. It’s even harder to cope with these effects if one is a woman and a minority community that is secluded and discriminated against by the larger community; not just social discrimination and stigma, but also discrimination in the allocation of resources, because the community is under represented in the political arena.

Such is the life of the approximately four thousand Watta community members in Dirib Gombo; who over the years have been discriminated against because of their past hunter-gatherer nature lifestyle. Perhaps this discrimination was a blessing in disguise for this community. In 2016, thirty five women were left with no option but to come together and form a womens’ group, with the objective of supporting each other to cope with the effects of different hazards that had become part of their life.  “We have to work hard to cope with drought. We have children to feed, school fees to pay and our homes to run; during drought we have to go an extra mile to cope with its  effects”, said Halima Liban who is a member of the group

Their first activity was to plant indigenous tree seedlings, that are believed to be medicinal, for sale, but the lack of social acceptability meant no market for their tree seedlings.  Not deterred by this, they introduced a merry- go-round saving scheme where they started contributing KES 100 a month and the money loaned to the members at a profit. The members invest it in small businesses to enable them to provide for their families. The women meet twice a month to deliberate on their activities, but always at the back of their minds was the fear that other communities might misinterpret the objective of their gatherings.

In December 2016, the local chief informed the group of an opportunity offered by a network of local organizations, MIONET (Marsabit Indigenous Organizations Network); the availability of small grants for groups to implement an activity of their choice to help them cope with the effects of drought. MIONET had received funding from a Christian Aid Appeal fund to support locally-led responses. This was after a recommendation of a study done by Kings College London through the Linking Preparedness Response and Resilience project encouraging the organisation to pilot an approach that would have affected communities design and manage their own disaster responses.  The Dabb Nur women’s group called for a meeting and sought for someone in their community who could read and write to help them fill the application forms for the grant as a majority of them have low literacy levels.

As luck would have it, they were successful in securing the KES 170,000 to implement a poultry project, where they rear both hybrid chicken for eggs and indigenous chicken for meat. They call it luck because, as a minority group, such opportunities are unheard of in their small community.   They picked the poultry project because they say chicken rarely die during drought. The eggs and the chicken are sold to hotels in Marsabit town and also to community members. Each month two members from the group are assigned the responsibility to source the market for the chicken and eggs.  Once in a while in their monthly meetings where everyone contributes KES 10, the group would have tea and eggs from their project. The have also used the profits from this activity to diversify their group activities to include planting ‘sukuma wiki’ (Kales) to improve food security and harvesting and preserving hay for sale to community members who own livestock, especially in times of drought.

Three months down the line, the benefits of this project have earned them recognition and a place in the larger community. Community members irrespective of their tribe now visit them knowing there is a ready market for their indigenous chicken, they also know where to buy eggs for their families.If there are fundraising initiatives in our village, we receive requests to contribute to the initiative as a group”, said the chairlady of the group, Dabb Nur.

Wayu women group breaking into song and dance

The project has not only created a market for indigenous chicken for the larger community but has also increased their income as a group, resulting in an increase in the amount of the loans they can access to invest in their individual businesses. The women indicated that their husbands are in full support of this initiative, “back in the days we would go for group meetings and come back empty handed, but now we benefit from it. Even the men respect us, they even help us pay for the group contributions”, said Halima Liban.

In the upcoming global conference ‘Preparing for Shock: Is Preparedness the New Frontier?’ taking place in Geneva on 14th and 15th March, we will explore how we have progressed on enhancing the roles of underrepresented groups such as women, older people, and people with disabilities in preparing for, delivering and reaching the affected population; and sharing best practice for recognition and cultivating women’s leadership, as well as exploring opportunities to strengthen engagement for this issue at global and regional levels. For more information about the conference, please visit our event page here.

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